Jean Roesner prepared the following for her church's Minute for Mission on 17 August (posted with permission):
Have you ever been so disturbed that you were sick to your stomach? Have you ever been so excited that you wanted to shout out congratulations to the people you were watching?
Now, have you ever had both emotions at the exact same time?
You might know that Deb and I just arrived home from the Women’s Exchange to South Africa. One of the sites we visited was an elementary school in Ducats, just outside of East London. As we toured the school, we were introduced to the teachers and their students. It was obvious that they were using some of the very “new” strategies that I am struggling to bring into my classroom. In my heart, I was hopeful, because these teachers obviously wanted to teach their students in the most current, research-supported methods.
At the same time, I was sick to my stomach. I watched as 68, 5 year olds – kids just like my son, Myles – gathered in their outside classroom. These children were learning under the shade of the trees, flanked on either side with metal shipping containers that served as shelter for the students when the rains came. There was no chalk board, no serviced toilets, and some of the teachers hadn’t been paid for 3 months. There were no students who received special education, as the school was not accessible for students with physical disabilities, and other learning disabilities are not addressed for individual learners. To me, this is the face of poverty that will forever be etched in my brain.
I was thinking about it. It’s easy to be anthropomorphic when thinking about God. After all, we only know the human experience. It’s easy to imagine that God might have the same feelings about how we deal with such poverty in the human condition. When He sees those conditions, does his stomach turn? Is He happy to see His children suffering due only to the fact that their lives began in one part of the world vs the other? I don’t think so.
But, I do think God is hopeful. When He looks at exchanges such as this one, which has literally improved the lives of thousands of people in the Amatole Presbytery, I think God is hopeful that we can, no, that we will, improve the human condition by reaching out to those around us who are in need. You might have heard that six ladies came to the US in 2011. In 2012, those very ladies started garden projects, soup kitchens, and community clinics, to name just a few IN 34 congregations. Why? Because God brought them to the places here, similar to our food bank, clothing center, and others, where they were inspired by others making a difference in their communities. When God sees that, how can He not be hopeful?
It is my hope, as we continue to be part of this exchange, that we reach out to the people in the Amatole Presbytery, and that we encourage their growth. In doing so, not only are they doing the work of God, they are reminding us what it means to be Christian. Maybe, as we work together, we’ll be able to let go of that sick to our stomach feeling.